Minot surprised by DEP fees

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MINOT – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is asking the town to pay $7,554 for a permit and licensing fees for developing new ball fields and walking trails between the school and town office.

Recreation Committee member Candace Benwitz presented the information to selectmen Monday night. The board’s response: The town is trying to develop the land in stages, and the DEP fees are unexpected.

About three weeks ago, the town learned the Maine Trails Advisory Committee has recommended approving a $29,000 grant to develop a network of three miles of trails, most handicap accessible, on the 160 acres it owns. Townspeople recently approved $7,500 as local match for the trails and raised another $20,000 toward a soccer field on land east of the Minot Consolidated School on Shaw Hill Road.

“The trails will be open to everybody in the state. We’re a public entity. I just don’t understand them charging us,” Selectman Dean Campbell said.

Benwitz said she had presented the “public land” argument to DEP to no avail.

Selectman Eda Tripp questioned the cost for the permit.

“The DEP couldn’t put in enough hours to come up with that fee,” she said.

Benwitz said the amount was the DEP’s standard charge.

“Would the DEP trust us, let us go ahead now, until we get the money at next town meeting?” Selectman Steve French asked.

Benwitz shook her head, “They want it now.”

Selectmen saw no other way than to cap the $20,000 townspeople approved at March town meeting to develop a soccer field, with a recommendation that the Recreation Committee ask for money next March.

In the meantime, the Recreation Committee should see how far it can stretch the $12,446 it would have left as, last summer, thanks to volunteer efforts, the Recreation Committee parlayed $8,700 into at least $50,000 worth of work, building a 1,500-foot access road and clearing and leveling land for a couple of play fields.

Benwitz noted that the DEP verbally agreed to allow the town to go ahead with work on the soccer field and cut trees for the trails during the application process.

She estimated it will take about three months for storm water flow studies and DEP review to be complete and all permits issued.

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